Thursday, November 18, 2010
OLD HEGG TURTLES
We visited a truly remarkable man this morning. Orten King is a retired Bequia fisherman, for 30+ years he used scuba gear to harvest lobster and conch from the waters of the Grenadines. In 1995 he retired to his pleasant beach side house and one day saw a hatch of turtles where the hatchlings were not getting to the sea. Something moved him to gather up these tiny scraps of newborn life and find a bucket of seawater. 15 years later his Old Hegg turtle operation has been responsible for raising and releasing over 800 Hawksbill turtles into the wild.
Before plastics were around, these turtles were hunted and killed for their shells for the purpose of making combs, spectacle frames, buttons, and other decorative items. Now, both adults and their eggs are hunted for human consumption and their reproductive cycle is disrupted by human development along beaches causing the hatchlings to travel at night not toward moonlight as their instinct tells them to do, but the wrong way, toward the brighter lights of the town. But the trade in shells still goes on, we were offered a beautiful shell of an immature hawksbill in the market in Grenada, the seller either unaware of its place on the critically endangered species list or uncaring of that fact.
Orten has built a pens, sheds, concrete pools and turtle isolation wards all without outside assistance and is a well known stop on the cruise ship circuit as he and his assistant give tours and talks on their efforts.
We were impressed by the practical knowledge that they had garnered and I must say I was a little skeptical that their releases were making it out in the wild as they had only known concrete pools and hand feeding since birth. But they acclimatise the larger turtles in the sea by allowing them out on tethers then watch them on the day they get released. Still it will be a few years more before they have proof positive of their success when a Old Hegg release with its characteristic two holes in the back of it's shell comes back to that beach and lays her eggs there.
Orten says “ I have 250 different sizes of hawksbill turtles ranging from three inches to 14 inches long, and I expect to get more hatchlings before the end of the year. I am getting the youth of our country involved by inviting our schools to visit so I can teach them the values of a healthy environment, which will be to their benefit in the future. “
After the visit I walked out to have a look at the piece of space debris that has washed up on the beach, possibly a part of a French Ariane rocket.
We had taken a taxi over but chose to walk back and were escorted off the property by a small flock ov extremely vocal guinea fowl who seemed appalled by our behavior and wanted to warn the world we were at large.
We walked by the old Spring sugar plantation where I decided to take cover behind the large cable reel that had been recycled as a roadside sign. Why? well this fellow was just ahead and as far as I could see he had sharp pointy horns and complete set of spherical objects dangling between his legs. Gisela said though that she felt he was a friendly bull and we should walk past thinking pleasant thoughts.
There are some very expensive houses around in this area, way beyond the means of tha average local. Here is one.
Posted by John Duncker at 4:34 PM